In the latest of his unexpected outings, Pope Francis has ventured into Rome’s center to get new eyeglass lenses rather than waiting for the optician to come to him.
According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis surprised both locals and tourists yesterday when he visited an optician to get his lenses replaced for his eyeglasses.
Locals and tourists watched the Pontiff from outside the eyeglass store on Via del Babuino between Rome’s famous Piazza del Popolo and Spanish Steps, a famous shopping district, as he tried out a pair of glasses.
“I don’t want to change the frames,” the Argentine Pope told the shop’s owner. “Just new lenses.”
The optician and storeowner, Alessandro Spiezia, 71, told AP he was supposed to go the Vatican on Wednesday, but Francis’ secretary informed him that the Pope wanted to instead go to his shop. Spiezia made the original pair of glasses for the Holy Father last year.
Italian publication Corriere della Sera reported that the store was a mere eight square meters, “smaller than a bathroom in my house,” the owner joked. It also noted that the Pope was affectionately welcomed by both Alessandro and his son, Luca, and that there were hugs and kisses of welcome, as well as a few tears. It also reported how quickly the news that the Pope was there traveled and how a bystander wasted no time when the porter of the nearby exclusive Hotel De Russie, said, “Run, there’s the Pope!’
At the end of the encounter, which lasted about 40 minutes, partially because Spezia gave the Pope an eye exam, Francis made sure to settle his bill, saying “Please, Alessandro, let me pay what is owed.” A large crowd gathered outside the shop to see and watch the Pope.
The optician told reporters that the Holy Father listened to his advice, as his clients usually do. Among Spiezia’s clients were Popes John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, Federico Fellini, Giulietta Masina, Bill Clinton and Francis Ford Coppola, he said.
“But I realized something,” Spiezia added. “Pope Francis and John Paul II, people of extraordinary simplicity, understood how life should be lived, because before becoming priests, they were men.”